I will never forget what happened on a cold February day in Iowa a few years back. I was in Des Moines for a weekend apologetics conference and to debate Hector Avalos, an atheist professor at Iowa State University. Being my first major debate, I was a bit anxious. You must understand, this was really a David vs Goliath battle. Dr. Avalos (Goliath) had both a Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Harvard, had published numerous papers in scholarly journals, had written several academic books, and was a seasoned debater. I was finishing my doctoral work and only had experience debating informally. On the one hand, I was confident because I knew that when you have the Truth, there is nothing to fear. That is why I accepted the invitation to debate. On the other hand, I was also nervous and worried. I did not want to misrepresent the Lord or His Word. Even though I had been preparing for months, I wasn’t sure if I had prepared sufficiently. As a dear brother was driving me to the event, in this state of anxiety, I got a message on my phone from my congregation in Miami. It was a video message and I did not know what to expect. As it turns out, a group of young people and their families had put together a short video to encourage me. Let me tell you, just thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes as it did that cold February afternoon in Iowa. To hear these precious brothers from church, one by one, speak words of encouragement to me lifted my spirits. My wife and my kids were also on the video encouraging me. The video ended and I was in tears, praising the Lord. (Click here to watch the video) With such encouragement, all of my anxiety washed away! Believe me when I tell you that I felt 10 feet tall when I walked into the auditorium that afternoon. The lesson learned was priceless!
We are called to be encouragers! We are called to help encourage one-another! We are called to come alongside those that are discouraged, hurting, sad, depressed, etc,… and speak life into them. There are several people in the Bible that provide us with awesome examples of this calling, but I’m reminded especially of Barnabas. In ACTS 4:36 it says, “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus…” He was a man who had a special talent =”Son of Encouragement”. His nickname matched his most outstanding characteristic. Why did the apostles consider him to be an encourager? The answer is found in several amazing passages in the book of Acts. First, in Acts 9 we read of how Barnabas stood by Paul when Paul first got saved and was an encouragement to him. It is very likely that the early church would not have embraced Paul (for obvious reasons) had he not been represented by Barnabas. It is easy to imagine how discouraging it must have been to Paul that nobody believed he had been saved and was genuinely responding to a calling to serve Jesus. How critical was this intervention at such a crucial time in Paul’s walk? In Acts 13 & 15 he stood by John Mark and was a tremendous encouragement to him as well. After abandoning Paul during the first missionary trip, Paul did not want John to be a part of the second trip. John Mark probably felt rejected! John Mark probably felt discouraged! Would he ever be able to overcome his bad decision during the first missionary trip? Would people ever see the potential in him? That could easily have turned into a pity-party. BUT Barnabas crashed the party! What was the result of Barnabas’ encouragement of John Mark? He went on to write the Gospel of Mark. Even Paul later recognized his usefulness (2 Tim. 4:11). In Acts 11 we read of how Barnabas stood by and encouraged the local church. He truly was a son of encouragement.
It’s hard to imagine what the early church would have looked like without the intervention of Barnabas with his gift of encouragement. Over the years, God has put many a Barnabas in my path. It’s hard for me to imagine where I would be today had it not been for brothers and sisters coming along side of me and being “sons of encouragement.” Go out of your way to encourage those whom God has placed in your life. It is an absolutely essential and priceless ministry in the Body of Christ. The church will never have a shortage of people who want to be its Paul’s! But are you willing to be its Barnabas?
Dr. Juan Valdes is a bi-lingual speaker for Reasons for Hope (English and Spanish) and the senior pastor of a Spanish-speaking congregation in Miami, Florida. He has taught Theology, Bible and Apologetics at the seminary level in both English and Spanish and speaks regularly across the country and internationally at Pastor’s Conferences, Youth Conferences, Apologetics Conferences and local church events. Juan, his wife Daisy and their children, Juan Elias and Jessica serve in multiple areas of ministry in Miami, Florida.